Shrinking RIOC for a Better Roosevelt Island Future

Shrinking RIOC for a Better Roosevelt Island Future

Sometimes, shrinking RIOC may not seem like enough. Really, a lot of us would like to get out the Magic Eraser and… But no, that can’t happen. But bringing the bloated ox down to sensible size should be possible.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Shrinking RIOC: Why?

frog sitting near greenery in summer day
RIOC’s into “branding and marketing” Roosevelt Island, but this is what residents see./Photo by Victor Pace on

The whys of shrinking RIOC are among the easiest tasks to which a researcher might be assigned. For example, having finished off 90% of its mission, the state agency evolved into a toad-like encumbrance with nothing better to do than fuel a patronage dump with unrestricted cash.

Just cut off the patronage spigot, and watch the magic happen.

The creation of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation in 1984 came with a lawful mission: “…design, develop, operate, maintain and manage Roosevelt Island.”

And that was conditioned on Roosevelt Island as “…a new community which would retain and heighten the benefits of urban living while preserving a sense of scale and open space for Roosevelt Island residents and New York city as a whole.”

Right away, you notice three items missing: marketing, branding and building a patronage dump. In other words, the state agency that never gets it wrong went seriously off the rails. Its deep thinkers could not, under New York State tradition, reduce government when it has no purpose.

The design was done, for all sensible intents in 2010 when the plan for FDR Four Freedoms State Park was finalized. There was development yet to come – finishing Southtown as well building the park, for example.

But when no more design was needed, preserving itself, even growing, RIOC started redesigning things with which everyone was already happy. As a shining example, The Daily gives you the Shelton J. Haynes/Langan Rock Farm, formerly known as Southpoint Park:

When RIOC and Langan promised a more “natural shoreline,” this is what they meant. No joke. They note its “lush vegetation.”

But there were wins

All in all, the development part did not go badly. The original WIRE buildings remain some of the finest in their class in New York. Big living spaces and a compact, caring community. And both Four Freedoms Park and the out of the blue surprise of Cornell Tech are world class wonders.

Although RIOC had little to do with either, it managed development of some good stuff.

  • Manhattan Park lost some of its shine, but it brought a new element: market rate housing that spread through the Island, bringing a new cultural element to the community.
  • The Octagon, also market rate, restored an historic structure left to waste. It’s residents-only backyard is a gem for relaxing.
  • Southtown: The marriage with Hudson-Related combined the Island’s finest architecture with a cozy river-to-river neighborhood impossible to replicate anywhere else.

But all that’s in and done with the exception of Southtown’s final building, now tied up in a financing tangle. RIOC ought to take a bow and shrink gracefully where its staff is no longer needed.

But it won’t. Once New York State snares a tasty piece of the pie, they never put it back.

What’s left: operate, maintain and manage…

With its major assignments mostly done, RIOC should shrink itself honorably down to what it needs for operating, maintaining and managing, synonyms tucked in for God only knows what reason.

And with that should go some bloat, starting with the 50 member Public Safety Department. The little they do could be accomplished with many fewer. Bloating always means ineffective. Think: 300 pound sprinter. So, make some sense of it, already.

And let’s be completely honest. If Shelton J. Haynes has taught us anything, it’s that Roosevelt Island can do perfectly well without an Executive Director.

Let’s bring in some consultants not already compromised by connections in Albany. Have them look the toad over and see where some weight loss can lead us.

How-To Do It?

That’s all.

More from the roosevelt island daily news

  • “How can he stay on?” a Reader Asks about RIOC CEO Haynes
    After reading about the latest in an avalanche of bad RIOC news, “How can he stay on?” he asked. Our reader asked about RIOC President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes, and his question echoed others bouncing around Roosevelt Island. The answer, sadly, is simple. by David Stone The Roosevelt Island Daily News “How can he stay on?”
  • COVID Cases Soar While RIOC PSD Gets Worse
    COVID cases are soaring across New York City. The Health Department sounds alarms, pleading for face masks in all public places. But on Roosevelt Island, where positivity rates now nearly double the city average, the governing body, RIOC, remains as mindlessly uncaring as ever. Time to ask why Governor Hochul, in a time of crisis,
  • RIOC Board Meeting, May 2022: A New Exercise in Bunker Mode
    Bunker mode fits as well with New York’s Open Meetings Law as a whale on a shrimp boat. They’re antithetical. One reveals things; the other hides them. But controlled by an irresponsible governor and a board of virtual lacky arthropods, it’s what we’re likely to get for the foreseeable future. No one within that framework
  • Another One Bites the Dust: Markus Sztejnberg Exits RIOC
    Markus Sztejnberg, the latest domino to fall in a row of RIOC executives, left recently after just a few months on staff. He “…is the latest RIOC executive to resign,” an informant tells The Daily. “Haynes is keeping quiet about it in his bunker. It all looks and smells bad.” by David Stone The Roosevelt
  • Losing Maloney, Maybe. Serrano for Sure. Final Redistricting
    Final redistricting by a Special Master appointed by a Steuben County judge guts the voting map approved by Democrats. The same judge threw them out as unconstitutional, and New York’s highest court agreed. Big change for Roosevelt Island is certain. It’s only a question of how big. by David Stone The Roosevelt Island Daily News

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